A man once posited that time is a flat circle. Against all odds, we rescued the one-of-a-kind 1930s Heywood-Wakefield living room set . . . again.
Two years ago, a woman invited David and me into her home to purchase her mother’s living room set. We wrote about that amazing acquisition here.
The seller informed us that her mother, the original owner, insisted it was 1930s Heywood-Wakefield. But the pieces are not listed in the official Hey-Wake bibles, Heywood-Wakefield by Harris Gertz (2001); Heywood-Wakefield Modern Furniture by Steve Rouland & Roger Rouland (1995). Purists disagree with the original owner’s opinion, but more on that below.
The story of our seller’s parents’ acquisition of the set is a touching tale of love, longing and the power of retail therapy:
The Seller’s parents, as newlyweds in 1933, lived in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. A friend’s furniture store stood just down the street. One day Mother caught sight of this freshly arrived set of modern furniture. Enchantment pulled her closer. When her husband came home from work later that afternoon, Mother gushed to him about this magical apparition. They went window shopping that evening. Dad didn’t say anything.
The next day Mother, in the back of the house, heard noises out front. She opened the door to encounter furniture delivery men unloading her new living room set. Her husband made a huge, romantic gesture for their first anniversary.
The furniture stayed with the family all these decades. Actually, it has resided in the granddaughter’s home for the last several years, ever since Grandma’s death. As Buyers, we understood the emotional connection with the pieces. I don’t know how the Seller selected us, but they entrusted a part of their family it into our care.
Fast forward to last week, as I scrolled through a multitude of estate sales online. Foolishly, I failed to recognize them, but had the presence of mind to show these photos to my son. Michael, who had bonded with the set while it languished in our booth (and whom I suspect schemed to keep them for himself) espied them. “That’s our furniture!” Sure enough, he was right.
Stewards of History
For the few months we had owned the set, we displayed it in our booth at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, along with a statement that we would not break up the set. While we could make far more money selling the pieces individually, we felt an obligation to be good stewards. Maybe there’s a bit of romanticism in all of us.
But an unsettlingly undercurrent vibrated. The furniture spoke to Michael. Should he acquire them at a steep discount for his apartment?
The New Owner
Working at the Antique mall, Michael spent weeks eyeing the set. He claims the day he decided to keep the pieces, a woman strolled in and enthusiastically bought them. The next day she returned with a friend. They bought two glasses of wine at the in-house cafe, wandered over to our booth, sat on the new furniture, and toasted good fortune. Sorry, Michael.
Estate Sale Heartbreak . . .
Back to last week: After Michael confirmed the set’s identity I checked the details of the estate sale company selling it. A sign-up sheet would go up at 4 pm the day before the sale. David and I showed up ahead of time. A neighbor assured us the new owner loved her 1930s Heywood-Wakefield set, now in the sunroom. But she had moved and couldn’t take all her furniture with her.
At four o’clock I knocked on the door. The estate sale rep wrote our names on line #1. We’d return for the 9 am opening. That night we discussed our budget, knowing how much we spent the last time and how much the set sold for.
The next morning, the first to cross the threshold, we zoomed to the sunroom. We absolutely didn’t want to see the pieces priced individually. That scenario would drive a stake through our hearts because we took such care to ensure that the collection stayed together.
On the drive over, David told me of his dream the previous night. In mute horror, he walked into a room and saw the pieces priced individually. Buyers surged past, indifferent hands grabbing them piecemeal. In his dream he cried out in anguish.
Sadly, our worst fears were confirmed. Each piece sported a price tag. The total price exceeded our budget. Sure, they’d be discounted by 30% on Day 2, and a whopping 50% on Day 3. But we knew they wouldn’t remain a complete set very long.
We approached the estate sale rep and offered our story, explaining how hard we tried to keep the set together. Then David had an inspired thought. Could the rep telephone the owner and explain that the people she bought the set from wanted to buy it back? And we made an offer — it was a very long shot. We would hear the answer later in the day.
. . . and Joy
Once David and Michael loaded the set in our trailer, I asked if we should drop it off at our booth immediately.
Michael regards this as an intervention. What are the odds that we’d acquire this set — twice? Maybe this time he will keep it.
1930s Heywood-Wakefield or Lloyd?
When I researched the furniture two years ago, I noted that the Lloyd Manufacturing Company of Michigan, acquired by Heywood-Wakefield in 1921, made the set.
Here’s what we know:
- In the 1920s Heywood-Wakefield was known as the country’s largest chair manufacturer and baby carriage builder.
- Toward the end of the decade, Hey-Wake wanted and needed to diversify. Well made, affordable, mass-produced furniture seemed a good bet.
- Heywood-Wakefield hired Gilbert Rohde and assigned the task of designing a modern line. Hey-Wake introduced Rohde Contemporary Furniture in 1931. The set below looks like a precursor to the more recognizable Heywood-Wakefield furniture.
- Heywood-Wakefield debuted their modern line at Chicago’s Century of Progress in 1933-34
- The 2 Heywood-Wakefield bibles, mentioned above, both identify the solid blond maple and birch furniture manufactured from 1936 to 1966.
That means there’s a gap in identifying 1930s Heywood-Wakefield furniture produced during 1931 and 1936. Could this set come from that period? After all my effort, I’m going to vote yes.
As for Michael winding up with the set, well, check back soon and see what happens.
Ann Marie and David
For another post on our trip to oblivion to pick up a Heywood-Wakefield bedroom set, now in storage, go here.
Where I party:
The Creative Circle
Friday’s Furniture Fix
Amaze Me Monday
The Dedicated House